Pazhassi Raja Smrithi Mandiram, the memorial dedicated to Pazhassi Raja, the prince of the erstwhile Kottayam Malabar who fought against the British, is now adorned with the Kerala style murals depicting the story of Pazhassi Raja. The murals on the life and history of Pazhassi Raja drawn by artists K R Babu and team was unveiled to public on 07 Jan 2018.
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja(1753-1805)
Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, known as the Lion of Kerala fought against the British East India Company with the Guerrilla warfare by involving all sections of the society including peasants and tribes. In his early days of Kingship he supported East India Company to defeat the invasion by Tippu Sultan of Mysore. But when they became rivals, in 1796, the Company army attacked his palace at Pazhassi and looted the wealth completely. But Pazhassi Raja escaped to the forests in Wayanad and established his rule with the help of his trusted warriors, tribes and local people. His revolts against the British continued till his death in 1805.
Pazhassi Raja Smrithi Mandiram
The memorial building was constructed by Mattannur Municipality, the local self government and inaugurated in November 2014. The building in the form of a Koothambalam, the traditional theatre of ancient India/Kerala, is constructed on top of an elevated platform in the middle of an ancient pond.
The pond, which is known as Vandikkulam was part of the Palace complex of Pazhassi Raja. Immediately after the defeat and death of Pazhassi Raja, the British demolished the palace complex and constructed a road connecting Mysore and Thalassery. During that period, the open ground adjacent to the road was used for camping merchants traveling with bullock carts. They used the ground as well as the pond and hence the ground was then known as Vandi Maidanam and the Pond as Vandikkulam (In the regional language Malayalam, Vandi means Cart ).
It was the idea of K Bhaskaran, the then Chairman of the Municipality, to present the life and history of Pazhassi Raja in Kerala style murals as the memorial has no relics or antique pieces from the history to display. Moreover, some of the ancient murals of Kerala still exist in the locality at Thodeekkalam Shiva temple and Mattannur Subrahmaniasawmi temple.
K R Babu, a noted Mural artist from Kozhikode was assigned for the painting on the walls of the memorial, which is about 1000 sq ft. He was assisted by a team of mural artists Sadan Melam, Ranjith Ariyil, Sabareeshan Vengeri, Prathish Melur, Midhun Peringathur, C P Vijil and Nijesh Mananthavadi. Some of the artists from the locality- Vismaya, Diya, Simi, Arunjith Pazhassi and K Joykumar also participated in the project.
They completed the paintings on the walls of the corridor of the building within three weeks.
The museum displays copies of many archival documents from the period of Pazhassi and East India Company. Another attraction is a life size figure of Pazhassi Raja in rose wood (Veetty) by the sculptor Prashanth Cheruthazham.
According to K R Babu, the challenge in drawing the mural was the lack of information about the features of Pazhassi Raja. For this he adopted a sketch from the 200 plus year old mural from Thodeekkalam Shiva temple, which almost resemble with the available description about the Raja.
The sequence of paintings on the walls of the memorial starts with the family temple of the Raja, Mridangasaileswari kshethram at Muzhakkunnu. By unfolding the history, the scenes depicted are the early life of Pazhassi Raja, his emergence as a king, revolts with the East India Company and the fall of Pazhassi kingdom.
The paintings in the array include the Pindari Kalari, where he got the martial arts training, helping East India Company to defeat the invasion of Mysore Army, agriculture and farming, the conflict between Company and Pazhassi Raja, The followers of Raja interrupting the tax collection by Company, the attack on Pazhassi Palace by Company army in 1796, Pazhassi shifting his area of activity to Wayanad and attacking Panamaram Fort in a Guerrilla warfare with the help of warriors from Nair and tribal communities, the execution of Pazhassi Raja's supporter Kannavath Nambiar and his son by the Company, the hang to death of Raja's trust worthy lieutenant and Kurichya tribal leader Thalakkal Chandu, the last scenes of the Raja- firing at Pazhassi Raja's camp and the Raja found dead, his funeral and finally the Company's revenge by destroying the palace complex.
Kerala-style murals, which has a tradition of more than ten centuries, is characterized by its intricate lines and sketches, the five colours - Black, green, yellow, red and white- used.
The memorial is managed by a team of ladies from a Kudumbasree unit, a women empowering programme supported by the Government of Kerala.
Location/access: At Pazhassi, on main road between Mattannur and Thalassery. 4km from Mattannur and 24km from Thalassery, Kannur district, Kerala.
Timing: 9.30am- 6.30pm (No holidays)
Entry: with a fee (Rs.10 fo Adult and Rs.5/- for children)